Pr. Joël Candau

Joël Candau


Laboratory of Anthropology and

Social and Cognitive Psychology

LAPCOS (E.A.7278)

University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis (France)

My general aim is to answer the following question: Us, human beings, what do we really share? Why be concerned with sharing? Because culture is what human beings share in what they add to physical world, in a variable and contingent manner, but bound by natural limits. After several years of research about various forms of shared memory (real or imaginary: collective memory, familial memory, etc.), my current research is focused on three topics:

  • Sensorial and cognitive anthropology. My more recent inquiries concern the mechanisms of the natural language of odours. I contend that by studying the verbal coding of olfactory experience, it will be possible to improve our understanding of how such experiences are shared. This assumption is not trivial, given the characteristics of this verbal coding. Indeed, the way odours are verbally coded in many languages seems to be more of an obstacle than help for successful intersubjective communication. Nevertheless, it is hypothesized that some of the mechanisms of the natural language of odours contribute more than others to the sharing of an olfactory experience.
  • Anthropology of cooperation. This theorical research is the continuation of work engaged ten years ago, about the “forms of sharing” ( I consider that anthropology has to strive to explain – not interpret – the forms of sharing, i.e. the circumstances which make material or idealistic links take shape between individuals. When these links become stable to a variable time and degree, then they allow the emergence of one modality of social – one or more shared ways to be in the world – that they will reify under the terms “sulture” or “society” or, more modestly, that we will consider as a cultural phenomenon. Cooperation among human beings is a condition of the forms of sharing.

Naturalistic approaches in Social Sciences. The distrust – and often the hostility – of Standard Social Sciences towards Natural Sciences desprives our discipline of a very rich corpus of knowledge related to anatomical, physiological and psychological foundations of human phenomena on which anthropologists work: memory, sensations, emotions, beliefs, categorization, representations of time and space, and so forth. In the field of anthropology of memory, for instance, setting aside the contribution of cognitive sciences and neurosciences weakens the scientific credibility of numerous works on memories which are supposedly shared. I do not believe it serious to continue working on mental states – what are representations of the past but also beliefs, sensations, and so forth – without acquiring a good knowledge of organic substrate which makes them possible

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